In higher education, the first-year student experience was historically characterized as one of salutary or benign neglect—the programming received by incoming students was thought to be helpful, but not much effort went into coordinating the overall experience or assessing its effectiveness. Salutary neglect of the first-year experience is no longer practiced at many colleges, serving to instigate an American student success revolution; however, one characterized more by cooperation than conflict. The roots of this revolution can be traced back to the 1970s, a time period of unrest and protest on college campuses around the country. At the University of South Carolina, President Thomas Jones sought to counter the divisions created by this turmoil through the creation of a new course designed to bond students to the institution and transform undergraduate teaching. A more intentional approach to the first-year college experience grew out of this vision, and today the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition continues to operate at the University of South Carolina.
A tremendous amount of work has gone into creating a more intentional first-year experience at UK, and the success of this effort speaks for itself. We are on track to report record retention and graduation rates this year. Complacency, however, does not align with UK’s aspirational student success goals . There is more work to be done. The Student and Academic Life Division,in conjunction with the Provost’s Office, will be launching an effort to re-examine and further improve the first-year experience at UK. This work will incorporate the outstanding efforts that are already taking place in this area, while working to better coordinate them across campus. It is important to recognize that the first-year experience involves everyone at UK—anyone who interacts with first-year students, in any way, plays a role in their success. Thus, we will work to include faculty, staff and students from across campus in this endeavor.
The University of Kentucky has engaged the national renowned John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education to facilitate a reflective process of assessment and action to enhance our first year undergraduate experience.
A task force of faculty, staff and students, will be formed to determine on how to align best practices around student success and UK resources to enhance the first-year experience. A steering committee of 25 University leaders will guide discussions around nine aspirational standards for excellence in the first year, known as "Foundational Dimensions."
UK's nine Dimension Committees will be charged with evaluating and rating specific performance indicators, as well as producing recommendations and reports. The reports and recommendations will be closely examined, evaluated, revised, and synthesized by the Steering Committee to generate the findings, primary recommendation, and responsibilities in a final action oriented report.
Opportunities for involvement in the project are available for any faculty, staff, or student on campus. More information can be found here.